Waxman: Solyndra, Green Subsidies Saving People from ‘Fires, Droughts, and Floods’

Matt Cover | November 17, 2011 | 5:58pm EST
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Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – Representative Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said that Department of Energy subsidies, such as the the failed $535-million loan guarantee to solar company Sloyndra, were “saving” people from “fires, droughts and floods” that are caused by global warming.

“I want to put this in perspective Dr. Chu,” Waxman told Energy Secretary Steven Chu on Thursday at a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on the Solyndra failure. “You’ve been trying to move our nation toward a clean energy economy. And that’s essential to protect American families from fires and droughts and floods and other extreme weather that climate change will bring.”

Waxman alleged that Republicans were making up a scandal to aid their “allies” in the coal and oil industries and block green energy subsidies.

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Waxman continued: “My Republican colleagues on this committee have been trying to block these efforts [green subsidies] every step of the way. Republicans in Congress and their allies in the coal and oil industry oppose efforts to put a price on carbon pollution. They oppose funding research into new clean energy technologies. They oppose investment in clean energy companies which – like Solyndra – would produce new technologies.”

Waxman also said the GOP was on the wrong side of history, applauding Chu and arguing that green subsidies like Solyndra were on the right side of history.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

“I think you’re on the right side of history [and] the Republicans are on the wrong side and I think what they’re doing is leading us astray,” he said. “My message to my colleagues is to stop dancing on Solyndra’s grave.”

Waxman further claimed that Republicans were “manufacturing” a scandal where none existed, stressing that Congress instead should be approving more green energy subsidies like those given to Solyndra.

Solyndra, based in Calfiornia, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September. The company was at least $1-billion debt and has laid off 1,100 employees. The $535-million loan guarantee, because the company failed, will be paid for now with taxpayer money.

“My message to my colleagues is to stop dancing on Solyndra’s grave,” said Rep. Waxman.  “You’re trying to manufacture a scandal where there is none. This is a distraction from the work that we should be doing.”

“What Congress should be doing on energy policy is to encourage development of new energy sources so that we don’t have to rely on oil and coal and nuclear,” he said.

Waxman attempted to exonerate Chu, saying he had done “nothing wrong.”

An auction sign is shown at bankrupt Solyndra headquarters in Fremont, Calif., Monday, Oct. 31, 2011 before Wednesday's auction. Solyndra received a one half billion dollar loan guarantee from the government before filing for bankruptcy in Sept. 2011. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

The House hearing – during which Chu answered questions for over five hours – focused on the scandal surrounding the $535-million in green energy loan guarantees the government made to Solyndra, a California-based solar panel manufacturer.

Hundreds of e-mails have surfaced in recent months showing that the White House pressured the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to approve the loan to Solyndra, after it had been approved by the Department of Energy.

Solyndra was held out as the gold standard of President Barack Obama’s focus on subsidizing green technologies as a way of stimulating the economy.

Recently, e-mails have surfaced showing that someone within the Administration had pressured Solyndra to delay planned layoffs until after the 2010 elections.

Also, records show that Solyndra was allowed to refinance its original loans, even thought DOE officials knew the firm was in financial distress. One of the terms of that restructuring was that government loans would be made subordinate to those made by outside investors. This meant that if Solyndra went bankrupt – as it eventually did – taxpayers would not be first in line to receive repayment.

Waxman, however, claimed that this was not a big deal, saying it was merely “unfortunate” that taxpayers had lost $535-million million on a failed clean energy gambit.

“We have lost the money, it’s unfortunate, but there’s no scandal there,” said Waxman.  “There’s nothing there.”

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